To build a strong family, build a great dinnertime tradition

02 Mar To build a strong family, build a great dinnertime tradition

by Sydne George
Food writer
for the Great Falls Tribune


 One of the best things you can do as a family is sit down and have dinner together at home.

Studies have shown that kids in families who eat dinner together regularly at home are more likely to have better lan­guage skills, be more motivated at school, develop healthier rela­tionships among their peers and generally become better adjust­ed as teenagers.

In addition, experts say family dinners several nights a week can reduce the incidence of sev­eral problems including under­age drinking, smoking and drug experimentation among teens.

Beyond that, cooking and eat­ing at home allow you to control portion sizes and added preserv­atives in the food you eat, factors that are out of your control when eating out or grabbing some­thing on the run.

It’s a win-win situation for everyone.

But everyone’s busy. And dreaming up dinner every evening after a long day of work­ing or taking care of kids can seem daunting after awhile. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people lament the fact that they’re headed home with no idea what to serve for supper. If you’re on the lookout for fresh ideas to jazz up your din­ner plan, check out Laurie David’s “The Family Dinner: Great ways to connect with your kids, one meal at a time.”

Generously peppered with quotes, anecdotes, statistics, recipes and photographs, Laurie David makes a convincing case for families to sit down to dinner together.


In the meantime, how about three nutritious, delicious recipes you can throw together in a snap and serve to your family for din­ner tonight?







 2 tbsp. oil


 1 cup sweet onion, thinly sliced

 1 cup red pepper, sliced into thin strips

 1 cup fresh pea pods, strings removed

 12-16 jumbo shrimp, thawed and deveined, if necessary and patted dry

 1 tbsp. fresh ginger root, minced

 ¼ cup fresh lemon juice

 Salt, to taste

 Grated lemon peel, for garnish

 2 cups cooked brown rice

In a medium stir-fry pan or wok over medium high heat, heat oil until hot.

Add onion and stir fry until lightly browned, about two min­utes.

Add ginger, red pepper and pea pods and stir fry for another minute before adding shrimp.

Stir fry shrimp just until opaque and pink.

Add lemon juice and simmer until slightly reduced, just a minute or two. Add salt to taste.

Serve hot over cooked brown rice.

Garnish with lemon peel. Serves four.


 2 tbsp. olive oil

 2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced into rounds

 5 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

 6 large fresh basil leaves

 ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

 6 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a medium flat-bottomed fry­ing pan over medium-high heat, heat olive oil and saute zucchini until lightly browned.

Sprinkle bacon over sauteed zucchini. Arrange basil leaves on top of bacon. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the basil. Pour beaten eggs over basil.

Reduce the heat to medium and cook without stirring until eggs are set.

Finish in preheated oven until top is cooked about three min­utes.

Remove from oven. Run a table knife around edges of frittata and invert onto cutting board.

Slice in wedges and garnish with additional basil leaves, if desired. Serves six.








Fresh Basil Pesto

 2 cups (packed) fresh basil leaves, stems removed

 ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

 1 clove garlic minced

 ¼ cup walnuts

 ½ cup olive oil

 Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until basil is finely chopped and ingredients are mixed. You will have a thick paste texture when finished.

Transfer pesto mixture to an ice cube tray.

Drip a few drops of olive oil over each pesto cube.

Cover with plastic wrap and freeze overnight or for several hours.

Remove pesto cubes from tray and transfer to plastic baggie for storage in the freezer. Makes eight cubes.


 3 pesto cubes

 1 cup heavy cream

 1 rotisserie chicken from the deli, chicken meat cut into bite­sized pieces

 2 cups cooked bowtie pasta

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt pesto cube, stirring frequently and turning heat down if it sizzles.

Add cream and stir to combine. Continue cooking until slightly thickened.

Add 2 cups cooked chicken, stirring to combine, and cook until chicken is heated through.

Serve over cooked bowtie pasta, garnishing with fresh basil leaves and additional grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Serves six.

Sydne George is a food journalist specializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. She can be reached at sydnege­orge@



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